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What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is the eye disease people with diabetes get most often. It is a major but preventable cause of blindness in adults in the U.S. Diabetic retinopathy harms the blood vessels in the retina and eventually causes blurry vision.

What causes diabetic retinopathy?

There are two kinds of diabetic retinopathy. Nonproliferative (background) diabetic retinopathy is caused by leakage of the retinal blood vessels. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs when the retinal blood vessels close. When this happens, the retina forms new, abnormal blood vessels (neovascularization) to compensate for the loss of blood supply. Neovascularization can cause bleeding and possible scar tissue that can result in blindness.

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, nor is there any pain. However, patients with diabetes should not wait for symptoms to appear. Diabetic patients should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.

Blurred vision may occur when the macula (that part of the retina that provides sharp central vision) swells from leaking fluid. This condition is called macular edema.

If new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina, they can bleed into the eye and block vision.

Where can I get help?

The following specialist at Mason Eye Institute provides retina/vitreous services:

Dean Hainsworth, MD

Mason Eye Institute, One Hospital Drive
Columbia, Missouri 65212

Office: (573) 882-1027


(573) 882-1506